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"A much-welcome jolt to a beloved film series."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Saying "The Last Jedi" is the best "Star Wars" movie since the original ten minutes after walking out of it seems like an obvious knee-jerk overreaction even as I did so in response to my friends and family's texts, but I'm pretty sure I'll feel the same way tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and in December 2019 when J.J. Abrams will have a heck of an act to follow. It's an emotional, thrilling adventure that gives its audience a more intense version of everything it loves about the series even as it upends the whole thing." (more)
"Solid end-of-year awards material."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Of the (at least) three films to come out this year to use the evacuation of Dunkirk as a central point, "Darkest Hour" is in many ways the most conventional and award-friendly, a biography of a famed historical figure which gives a great actor the chance to transform himself. The posters say "Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill", and on that count, the film does not disappoint. That is, in absolute terms, not a negative - Joe Wright and his team have made a very good movie about a very interesting guy, and there is something more than hagiography going on here, but it certainly plays to a lot of expectations." (more)
"Guillermo del Toro finally approaches his Spanish-language work in English."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's been a stark difference between the dark fables of Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-language movies and the pulpy entertainment of his English-language work, and while there are moments of crossover ("Mimic" has the feel if not the depth, while "Hellboy II" has some carryover from "Pan's Labyrinth"), it's been fair to wonder if there just might be factors inherent to the different filmmaking environments that push him in different directions. "The Shape of Water" suggests that maybe this is not the case - more than anything else he's made in English, it's a work with ambitions beyond just fun, and a successful one." (more)
"Robbie tries, but the movie is hopelessly belittling."
2 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "A rarity for me: I went into "I, Tonya" without knowing who the director was." (more)
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Once a year, practically like clockwork, Woody Allen puts out a new film and once a year, practically like clockwork, there are a slew of think pieces from critics bemoaning his relentless production schedule and wishing that he curtail it and either make fewer films or just retire entirely. This might seem a tad ungenerous—his run of groundbreaking works from the Seventies through the mid-Nineties is legendary and his latter-day career, though admittedly much more hit and miss than previous, has still offered up gems like “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris”—but after watching his latest work, “Wonder Wheel,” I for the first began to consider that those naysayers may actually have a point. In the past, even his lesser efforts have usually contained some element to make them worth considering—even a disaster like “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” featured that hilarious supporting turn by Charlize Theron as a femme fatale for the ages—but other than Vittorio Storaro’s reliably stunning cinematography, there is nothing alone those lines here. Instead, the film presents viewers with a perfect storm of crumminess consisting of a substandard screenplay based upon an exceptionally dubious premise, lackluster direction and the grisly sight of one of the best actresses in the world delivering one of her very worst performances." (more)
"McDonagh's best yet."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "An unburied corpse, in ancient Greek tragedy, gave pause to the very gods themselves. It was the ultimate indignity, an affront to life as well as death, a refusal of humanity." (more)
"A good con job needs a perfect plan."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Have there been a lot of pyramid schemes collapsing in South Korea recently, or one big one which captured the public's imagination? It's a theme that has recurred in a lot of the Korean films to make it to North America this year (either in general release or on the festival circuit), with "The Swindlers" the one that seems to offer the most light-hearted con artistry. It's not a bad entry in one of cinema's most potentially-enjoyable genres, even if it is the sort where the audience is more placing bets on which big twist it will have rather than being surprised by that sort of thing." (more)
"Seeking golden cities in the jungle is safer for audiences than explorers."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Oro" opens with the aftermath of carnage, not bothering with any sort of build-up suggesting honorable intentions or excited curiosity for this set of conquistadors seeking a fabled city of gold. No, director Agustin Diaz Yanes leaps straight into cynical, cutthroat territory, and while that means there's less high adventure to hook an audience, there's still enough in the way of thrills to keep an audience excited." (more)
"Can You Really Trust Anyone?"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "In the 14 years since it initially moved—perhaps “oozed” is a more apt word for it—from deserved obscurity to a bizarre but genuine place in the pop cultural firmament, I have never once written at any sort of length about “The Room,” the thoroughly demented stab at Tennessee Williams-style melodrama that was done in such an inexplicably awful (when it wasn’t just inexplicable) manner that a loyal and ever-growing cult following developed around the film, which was embraced as unintentional comedy of the highest order, and its singular writer/director/producer/star, the one and only Tommy Wiseau, a development that has inspired no small amount of personal relief. Look, I am not unfamiliar with the pleasures that can be had from sitting down and watching a truly bad movie unspool and unravel before ones eyes—I was attending bad movie festivals when I was still a barefoot boy with cheek of tan, I used to carry a copy of “The Golden Turkey Awards” around like a Bible and I have willingly watched “Manos: The Hands of Fate” multiple times without the MST3K commentary—and I have watched it a number of times in situations ranging from at home on DVD to the full-out in-theater experience but I am at a loss to explain what the appeal, no matter how ironic in nature, could possibly be. If a group of decidedly anti-social tolls decided to make a film about relationships despite lacking any working knowledge in the areas of human behavior, cinematic craft or the basic cadences of the English language, what they might come up with would only begin to approximate what Wiseau slapped together. To make matters worse, “The Room” commits the one sin that no movie hoping for camp classic status can afford to make—it is boring beyond belief. which no amount of enthusiastic spoon-throwing or impassioned impressions of Wiseau’s inimitable (though instantly imitated by all who encounter it) accent can quite overcome." (more)
"Focuses as much on the fuse as the detonation."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Movies are easily and frequently mocked for jamming an explosion into the action in order to placate the less--sophisticated members of the audience, and it can be a fair criticism - explosions are often a fairly blunt tool, not exactly used for subtle purposes. Filmmaker Chang Zheng apparently took that as a challenge, building his film "Yin Bao Zhe" ("Explosion" in English) not as an action spectacular, but as a film noir, and making it a pretty good one, even if much more does blow up here than is usual for that genre." (more)

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